NEW YORK — There were several reasons the Rays expected LHP Blake Snell to pitch well on Friday, given his past success against the Yankees and the improvements he showed in approach and execution in his last outing.
But that mattered none as the rookie turned in a brutal performance, failing to last three innings while throwing 88 pitches in 7-5 loss that was delayed three times by rain and ended after midnight.
"As far as Blake goes, he just kind of struggled to find the strike zone, drove his pitch count way up, just a lot of balls in the dirt,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "I think he's taking the approach to do everything he can to work ahead in the count and keep the ball in the zone more, but tonight it wasn't really there for him.''
To put Snell's outing in another context, he faced 16 batters and allowed nine to reach base, though only three scored.
In the 35-pitch opening frame, Snell allowed three hits and a walk to the first five batters but a strong throw home by CF Kevin Kiermaier got him a big out. In the second, he issued back-to-back walks. And in the third he allowed three more hits, including a homer and a double (on one of two balls LF Corey Dickerson could have played better) then threw a wild pitch that scored a run.
In 16 big-league starts, Snell is 5-8, 3.62, looking sharp at times and a mess at others, like Friday. Cash said they are confident the inconsistency is just part of the process with a 23-year-old rookie starter.
"Blake is learning on the go right now,'' Cash said. "This is why this experience here, these next three-four starts for him going into the off-season are so important.
"He's got to right the ship a little bit. He's totally capable of doing that. As soon as he can find where's he got a pitch he can trust to get over the plate in the zone at any time we're going to see this guy take off as a starting pitcher.''
Down 3-0, the Rays (59-81) got homers in the fourth from Logan Morrison and Steven Souza Jr., just their second back-to-back blasts of the season. But then veteran RHP Kevin Jepsen, who took over after the first rain delay, llowed a grand slam to make it 7-2. The Rays closed to 7-4 and had the tying run at the plate with no outs in the eighth, but Dickerson (who earlier got picked off second), Alexei Ramirez and Nick Franklin all failed to deliver.
They got two on again the ninth before the final delay. Then, 51 minutes later, with the Yankees making the surprising decision to send closer Dellin Betances, back to the mound, got a run on Morrison's two out single, but that was it as Souza struck out.
"I've never seen anything like that before, three rain delays,'' Souza said. "But the way we stayed in it was pretty impressive, especially at the end there.''
Souza and Betances appeared to have a brief moment after the final out, but Souza said "They're in playoff race, he's excited, he just got a little emotional on the mound. No big deal at all.''
LHP Justin Marks made his second big-league appearance, having debuted April 20, 2014 for the Royals, working three hitless innings but walking five.
"Maybe next time I'll be a little more efficient, won't make it so hard on myself,'' Marks said.
COLOME TO WBC: RHP Alex Colome said he plans to accept an invitation to join his native Dominican Republic team for next spring's World Baseball Classic. "I'm excited to get to pitch for my country," he said, adding that the agreement is assuming he finishes the season healthy. RHP Chris Archer is hopeful of an offer to pitch for the U.S. team.
DUFFY UPDATE: SS Matt Duffy underwent what the Rays said was successful surgery on his left heel Friday in Charlotte, with specialist Dr. Robert Anderson removing the bursa and debriding (cleaning up) the bone. Duffy will be in a split and on crutches for 2½ weeks, then in a boot for two months, but is expected to be fully recovered for the start of spring training.
MORE MEDICAL: LHP Xavier Cedeno has not pitched since Aug. 29 due to neck stiffness but said he is feeling "a little better" and is confident he will get back on the mound this season, just wanting to be sure doing so doesn't aggravate the issue. … Brad Miller was 0-for-4 as the DH after afternoon swings to test the right elbow hit by a pitch Thursday, and is expected back at first base today.
HIT MAN: Kiermaier extended his career-high hitting streak to 13 games with an infield single. That is the longest streak by a Rays player since Luke Scott had a 13-gamer in July 2013.
MINOR MATTERS: Jake DePew doubled in Palmetto's Granden Goetzman to give Double-A Montgomery a 4-3 walkoff win to stay alive in the best-of-five Southern League North Division playoff series against Jackson (Mariners); Game 4 is tonight. … Class A Bowling Green rallied to beat Great Lakes (Dodgers) 8-6 to even the best-of-three Midwest League playoffs, with the decisive game tonight. … Short-season Class A Hudson Valley opens play tonight aganst State College (Cardinals) in the NY-Penn League best-of-three championship series.
ARCHED UP: Archer takes the mound this afternoon with a team win his top priority as always. But as a byproduct, he is looking to continue his march to the 200-inning milestone, needing to work 242/3 over his final four starts, losing one with the shift to a six-man rotation.
MISCELLANY: The game was delayed 21 minutes in the fourth inning, 22 in the sixth and 51 in the ninth due to rain. … Souza's Thursday homer, based on ESPN's estimate of 461 feet, was second longest since the stadium opened in 2009; Raul Ibanez had a 477-footer. … The Rays on Thursday homered in the first inning for a team-record fourth straight game.